Sarah and Lauren have been best friends for most of their lives. Now, they both are living in New York in that period of their lives where they are adults, but don’t quite feel like it. Sarah is planning her wedding, while Lauren is happily single; they’ve grown up, but it’s difficult to say whether they’ve grown together or grown apart.
Rich and Pretty was a novel I picked up knowing nothing about, and I have to say it was in no way what I expected. All I did know going in was that the author, Rumaan Alam, is a South Asian man (making this pretty much an auto-read for me), and this novel…was anything but the type of book I expected. I’m not trying to say it’s not well worth reading; I found myself immersed in Lauren’s world. It was refreshing, in fact, to be given something so unexpected. I quickly adjusted my expectations and dove into this novel, eager to learn about the intricacies of Lauren and Sarah’s relationship.
This is one of those novels that is about nothing at all while simultaneously being about the most important things in our lives. Above all, it’s a novel of female friendship; Sarah and Lauren are best friends on the surface, and they know almost everything about one another…but are they really friends? It’s so interesting to see what’s happened to them. They’re friends because they have been their entire lives. If they met today, would they even like each other? There’s an undercurrent of tension that runs though this book and keeps the reader hooked.
Alam is great at writing unlikeable characters that you still sympathize with; both Sarah and Lauren aren’t easy to like in Rich and Pretty. They’re both selfish and difficult. Yet, you care about what happens to them (even as you sometimes revel in their mistakes) and you want to see them, in the end, overcome their differences and see each other as flawed wholes, rather than the narrow perceptions they have of one another steeped in their mutual history.
This is not a book for everyone; I enjoyed reading it and, in fact, read it in one sitting. But it’s also a book that is very much about nothing; it’s about daily life and relationships and growing together and apart. If you need a lot of plot to keep you reading, if you aren’t interested in nuanced books about relationships (and it’s okay if you’re not—like I said, this book isn’t for everyone), then you should skip this. But if you enjoy peeking into others’ lives and understanding relationships and personalities (and want to see more unlikeable women in fiction), then give this a try. You might just love it.